By Janet Spencer
Copyright 2000, Janet M. Spencer
October 17-25 is National Kitchen and Bath Week, to facilitate the
exchange of information about the two most frequently remodeled rooms
in the house.
Bathtubs Through History
* After Arabs conquered Alexandria, they allegedly used 700,000
library books as fuel to keep the fires going in the city's 4,000
* The Baths of Caracalla in ancient Rome covered almost 28 acres.
Over 1,600 people could bathe at the same time.
* Benjamin Franklin is thought to have imported the first bathtub
into America. He improved its design and spent much of his time
reading and writing while soaking.
* Martin Van Buren lost his bid for re-election in 1840 partly due
to the fact that taxpayers thought his recent installation of the
first hot water heater in the White House was wasteful. He liked to
heat his bathwater
* Millard Fillmore was the first president to have a bathtub in
the White House, in 1850.
* Napoleon was in the tub one day in 1803 when his brothers Joseph
and Lucien barged in all in a rage because he planned to sell
Louisiana to the Americans. Napoleon splashed his bathwater all over
Joseph, whereupon the shocked valet fainted dead away.
* Edmond Rostand was a French writer who hated to be interrupted
while he was working, but he did not like to turn his friends away
because he was writing. So he spent much of his time writing while in
the bathtub- and turned away his friends because he was taking a
bath. In 1898 he published "Cyrano de Bergerac".
* The king wanted to have his old gold crown melted down and made
into a new crown. However, he was afraid that the jeweler hired to do
the work would cut the pure gold with a less expensive metal such as
silver. The crown would still weigh the same; it would still look
like pure gold; but the jeweler would be making off with a chunk of
royal gold for free. The king asked Greek scientist Archimedes how he
would be able to tell if the jeweler stole gold from the royal crown.
Archimedes pondered the question for some time. Then, he decided to
take a bath. As he got into the over-filled tub, some water splashed
on the floor. That's when he realized that a body immersed in fluid
loses weight equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces- an
important law of physics. He knew that by weighing the amount of
water displaced by the crown both before and after it was re-worked,
he could tell if the gold had been adulterated. He became so excited
that he allegedly rushed naked into the streets of Syracuse, Sicily,
shouting "Eureka!" which means "I have found it!" The crown was
weighed, the jeweler did indeed steel some gold- and he paid for it
with his life.
History and Hoaxes
On December 28, 1917, H.L. Mencken published a fictitious history
of the bathtub in the "New York Evening Mail". The story told all
about how the tub was unknown in America until 1842 when a Cincinnati
grain dealer brought one back from Europe. However, people refused to
believe in the usefulness of the bathtub. Doctors of the day said
that bathing was a health hazard and legislators passed laws against
it. The bathtub did not gain acceptance until Pres. Millard Fillmore
ordered one installed in the White House in 1851. For years, Mencken
watched in awe as his totally fabricated story about bathtubs became
part of accepted American history. In 1926, he revealed the story to
be a hoax which he published only to lighten things up during the
war. People refused to believe the truth, and his history of bathtubs
even appeared in the "Dictionary of American History" written in
* A company in Seattle markets an inch-thick vinyl pad that fits
inside a standard sized bathtub. It helps keep water warm longer as
well as making the tub more comfy.
* If you're looking for something different in tubs, try the
Sensorium Ambiance tub from American Standard. It's computer
controlled, so you can call home on the phone and punch in a code to
have the tub automatically fill at a pre-selected temperature. A
remote camera lets you see who's at the door as you soak, and you can
admit them by remote control. All for under $25,000.
* The Ultra Limousine Company came out with a 104-foot Cadillac
featuring eight TV sets, a swimming pool, and a kitchen complete with
food processor and microwave. Ultra has also designed a hot tub that
bolts into the trunk of any Lincoln.
"A Bathtub Full of WHAT?"
* A student at the University of Southwestern Louisiana announced
his intention of spending 34 hours seated in a bathtub full of
ketchup. He lasted only 17 hours.
* Cad Wilson was a Klondike girl. One miner wanted to make an
unforgettable impression on her, so he filled her bathtub with wine
and invited her to take a bath. Instead Cad had the wine re-bottled
* When the script called for actress Claudette Colbert to take a
bath in 400 gallons of milk in the 1932 film "The Sign of the Cross",
she agreed to do the scene. Unfortunately the scene took a week to
complete and by the end of the week, the 400 gallons of milk had gone
* About 365 people drown in their bathtubs each year. By
comparison, about 350 people get struck by lightning annually.
* The longest Monopoly game played in a bathtub lasted 99 hours.
The longest in a moving elevator lasted 384 hours.
* Reginald Huffstetler stayed afloat in an eight foot square tub
of water for 98 1/2 hours in 1983. He never touched the bottom or the
* The "Bath Blast" Barbie doll could be dressed in soap suds using
a spray can of colored foam.
* An old law in Kentucky required citizens to take a bath at least
once a year.
* A thief in Rio de Janeiro was burglarizing a home when he
awakened the sleeping occupants. Running from the house in panic, he
jumped into a bathtub in the backyard of the house next door. In the
tub was what he thought was a large log. When the log showed its
teeth, he realized it was actually a large alligator. He jumped out
of the tub and into the hands of the cops.
* A friend gave Dorothy Parker a small alligator. She put it into
the bathtub until she could figure out what to do with it, then left
for an appointment. When she returned, she found this note from the
maid: "I have resigned. I refuse to work in a house where there is an
alligator in the bathtub. I would have told you this before, but I
did not think the matter would ever come up."
* During the bombing of London in World War II, a young lady was
taking a bath when her home was hit by a bomb. The bathtub was thrown
in the air and came down upsidedown with the girl underneath it. The
tub sheltered her from the collapsing rubble. Rescuers digging
through the ruins looking for survivors were very surprised to find a
naked girl unharmed under the bathtub.
* Mark Twain often told folks that he was one of a set of
identical twins. No one could tell them apart because they were so
similar. One day in the bathtub one of the twins drowned, but no one
ever knew which twin it was. Twain would continue, "That was the
tragedy. Everyone thought I was the one that lived, but I wasn't. It
was my brother who lived. I was the one that was drowned!"
* After the movie "Psycho" was released, a man wrote to Alfred
Hitchcock and complained that because she had seen the film, his wife
refused to bathe or shower. He wanted suggestions as to what he could
do. Hitchcock replied, "Sir, have you ever considered sending your
wife to the dry cleaner?"
* The Great International Bathtub races have taken place off the
coast of Vancouver Island every year since 1967. Contestants
manufacture light fiberglass tubs and mount outboard motors on the
back. No entry is allowed to be more than six feet long and three
feet wide. Boats and helicopters stand by to rescue bathtubs in
trouble. In 1981 only 30 of 133 contestants crossed the finish line
due to high seas. The winner ran the 39 mile course in one hour, 19
Baths as Art
* Painter Leopold Robert encountered much friction caused by his
picture entitled "Two Girls Disrobing for Their Bath" which depicted
two unclothed girls. Robert defended himself by pointing out that the
girls in the painting were taking their bath in an entirely secluded
location where no peeping toms could see them.
* Eccentric artist Salvidor Dali was invited by a store on 5th
Avenue in New York City to design their window display. Dali's
subsequent creation was titled "Night and Day" and featured many
unusual pieces. A bed covered with black sheets stood for night; the
canopy over the bed was a buffalo with a bloody pigeon in its mouth;
and a mannequin lay on the bed covered in cobwebs with its head
propped up on fake burning coals. Day was represented by an
ermine-lined bathtub filled with water. A mannequin in a gorgeous
ballgown was stepping into the tub while looking into a mirror held
by two arms sprouting from the floor. Dali set up this whole display,
then left for the night. But while he was gone, an employee who
thought the display could be improved upon changed the whole set
around. The bed was removed, the decor changed, and the mannequin
repositioned. Dali was furious. He stormed into the store and in
protest tried to overturn the tub of water. But he slipped and both
he and the bathtub crashed through the plate glass window, landing on
the sidewalk. Dali was arrested but given a suspended sentence. He
got front page coverage for weeks.
* How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb? Ten.
Three to hold the giraffe, and seven to shovel the Pacific into the
* Doctor: "Is your cold any better?" Patient: "Nope." Doctor: "Did
you drink orange juice after a hot bath like I told you?" Patient:
"Nope- after drinking the bath, I couldn't get the orange juice
* Limerick: There once was a lady named Harris/ That nothing
seemed apt to embarrass/ Till the bathsalts she shook/ In a tub that
she took/ Turned out to be plaster-of-Paris!
After burglarizing a home in Pasadena, CA, a thief decided to use
the big bathtub before he left with the loot. And that's where he was
when the police walked in.
All Contents Copyright 1998 by Janet Spencer. All Rights